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Supreme Court dismisses Nirbhaya convict Vinay Sharma’s plea against rejection of mercy petition

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The petition filed by Vinay Sharma, one of the convicts in 2012 Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case, to the Supreme Court against the rejection of the mercy petition by the President was dismissed by the court on Friday.

Sharma had claimed in the apex court that President Ram Nath Kovind while rejecting his petition had not considered the ‘mental stability’ he suffered due to torture in jail.

Denying his claim, the centre said he was fit and of sound mind.

The convict in his submission said that all the relevant records including one pertaining to his mental illness had not been submitted to the president in his appeal. On this, the centre had produced a medical report dated February 12 which showed that he was not suffering from any mental illness.

The four convicts in the gangrape case — which triggered a massive nationwide protest in 2012 – have been exploring every legal option one by one to stretch the date of their hanging as much as they can.

This was the last legal option left out for Sharma as his review and curative petitions to the Supreme Court and mercy petition to the President were exhausted, and the last option of a judicial review of president’s order by the Supreme Court has also ended today.

In a separate development, a Supreme Court judge, Justice R Banumathi was fainted while dictating an order on the centre’s petition seeking separate executions for the four death convicts.

Justice Banumathi regained consciousness and was subsequently taken to her chamber in a wheelchair. The plea was been heard by three judges bench which comprised Justices AS Bopanna and Ashok Bhushan as well. Further the bench said that the order will be passed in-chamber.

The savage case of gangrape and murder had took many twist and turn in last few months, as the date of execution has been shifted twice as the convicts’ lawyer had used the legal tricks very wisely to make it done.

Earlier, mother of the gangrape victim had alleged that AP Singh, lawyer of the convicts in the brutal case had challenged her by saying, “the hanging will never happen,”

On January 31, a trial court had stayed the execution of four convicts namely, Mukesh Kumar Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Kumar Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar (31) until further orders. The decision came few hours before the hanging which was scheduled for February 1 at 6 am.

The brutal gangrape and murder case in which the four convicts are sentenced is of December 16, 2012, when a paramedic student was brutally gangraped by a group of five men on a moving bus. The sixth convict was a juvenile. Later the victim succumbed to her injuries in the hospital.

One of the accused was a minor and appeared before a juvenile justice court, while another accused committed suicide in Tihar Jail. The four convicts were sentenced to death by a trial court in September 2013, and the verdict confirmed by the Delhi High Court in March 2014 and upheld in May 2017 by the Supreme Court, which also dismissed their review petitions.

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Decision to extend curfew in Punjab to depend on prevailing situation: CM Amarinder Singh

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Punjab Chief Minister (CM) Amarinder Singh on Friday made it clear that any decision on extending the curfew beyond April 14 would depend on the prevailing situation.

The CM was reacting to reports in a section of the media quoting him as saying that he will not lift the curfew, imposed in the light of COVID-19 crisis, on April 14.

Amarinder said what he had said was that no firm decision or timeline could be committed at this juncture. Restrictions would have to continue as long as needed to save lives and save the state, he added.

Any decision on lifting or extending the curfew or lockdown in the state will be taken in the light of the situation that exists at the time, said Amarinder. It would depend entirely on how things are then, he said, adding that it was not possible to commit either way at this juncture, when the situation as dynamically evolving.

If things improve then there would be no need for such tight restrictions, said the Chief Minister. However, if the situation takes a turn for the worse, there would be no option with the government but to continue with controls, either through curfew or lockdown or any other necessary means, he added.

The CM, at the same time, assured the people of Punjab that his government would continue to take more and more steps to minimise the hardships suffered by them as a result of the curfew. Already, a lot of essential services that were initially locked down had been restored, he pointed out, citing the examples of banking, postal and courier, harvesting, etc.

The necessity for doctors, health staff and regular patients to take curfew passes had also been done away with.

Going forward, a lot more steps would be taken to further ease the lives of the citizens, irrespective of whether or not the curfew continues, said Amarinder.

Punjab was the first state in the country to impose curfew in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

The CM said while the move has helped to keep the spread of the Coronavirus under check, the state government would not allow itself to become complacent.

Amarinder said he had already directed the Health Department to prepare, on war footing, for any eventuality, including community spread of the pandemic.

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‘It’s voluntary, I’m choosing not to do it,’ says Trump as he urges Americans to wear face masks

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United States recommended all Americans to use non-medical masks as an additional public health measure on Friday, to fight the deadly coronavirus that has so far claimed the lives of more than 7,000 people in the country, fearing that the illness may be spreading by normal breathing.

“It’s going to be really a voluntary thing. You don’t have to do it and I’m choosing not to do it, but some people may want to do it and that’s okay,”  said Trump while talking to reporters.

Trump asked people to keep medical-grade masks available for the health workers, and citing the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), he urged Americans to wear face coverings like scarves or homemade cloth masks.

The US President told reporters during a press briefing at the White House on Friday, that the CDC has recommended that people wear a basic cloth or fabric masks that can be either purchased online or simply made at home.

“The CDC is not recommending the use of medical-grade or surgical-grade masks. Those needs to be used for medical people working to save lives of Americans. Medical protective gear must be reserved for the front-line healthcare workers who are performing those vital services,” he said.

Trump also stressed upon that CDC’s guidance on social distancing, including staying at home when possible, standing at least 6 feet apart will stay in places such as grocery stores would last “for a period of time.” He also called for practicing hand hygiene.

Based on the new available data, CDC said the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity–for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing–even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.

Research indicates “the virus can actually be spread even when people just speak as opposed to coughing and sneezing,” news agency AFP quoted Anthony Fauci, who is leading the country’s scientific response, as saying.

Recently, Fauci, backed a scholarship that found SARS-CoV-2 can be suspended in the ultrafine mist formed when people exhale.

The new advisory came as the US reported the highest number of deaths in one day, in any country since the pandemic started with 1,480 fatalities breaking its own undistinguished record of 1,169 deaths from the previous day.

The deadly coronavirus has so far claimed the lives of over 7,000 people in the US and infected over 2,70,000 others.

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On Apr 5, 9 pm, light candles, diya for 9 min to dispel darkness of Coronavirus: PM Modi to nation

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday appealed to the citizens of the nation to switch off lights in their houses and light candles or diyas on April 5 at 9 pm for nine minutes to dispel the darkness and gloom brought by the outbreak of the deadly novel Coronavirus.

In his 11-minute message to the people, the PM termed it as an attempt to show coronavirus, the strength of Indian unity and ‘light’.

“We must all go through this darkness together. Those who are most affected by this are the poor and marginalised. To overcome this darkness, we must all unite to spread the light. Make this darkness of Coronavirus meet the light we all spread,” the Prime Minister said as India completed the first ten days of the 21-day lockdown.

“This Sunday, 5th April we have to challenge the COVID-19 pandemic, we have to introduce it to the power of light,” PM Modi said in an address to the nation.

“We have to take the Mahasankalp (the supreme oath) by 130 crore citizens to new heights. I want your 9 minutes at 9 pm on April 5,” he added.

PM Modi then asked Indians to switch off lights in their homes, reach out from their windows, gates or balconies and light a candle or diya for 9 minutes. Even torches and mobile phone lights would also do.

“Switch off every light in the house, reach to your main gate or balcony and light a candle, diya, torch or your mobile’s flash for 9 minutes,” the Prime Minister said.

He, however, stressed that no one should come out of their homes and maintain social distancing norms during the excercise.

“At no point of time in this exercise should we come out on the streets. Maintaining social distancing is the most important thing to do,” he said.

“There is no force in the world that is greater than the human spirit, PM Modi said as he concluded his address to the nation and reminded, “April 5 – At 9 pm – For 9 minutes – A gesture of unity and solidarity”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his address by congratulating the people of India for their “unprecedented discipline” during the first ten days of the 21-day Coronavirus lockdown.

He also said that Janata Curfew on March 22, was a success and had set an example for the world to follow. He claimed that various other countries were following the idea to thank health workers, other people involved in essential services during these hard times.

PM Modi had first declared last evening that he would share a video message this morning but did not specify the subject.

This is the third time the PM has addressed the nation since the Coronavirus pandemic became a cause for serious concern in India.

In his first address on March 19, PM Modi announced ‘Janata Curfew’ in the entire nation on March 22, from 7 am to 9 pm — a first step to avoid public gatherings and to prevent the spread of the deadly novel Coronavirus.

Then, in his second address on March evening, the Prime Minister announced the unprecedented 21-day nationwide lockdown to contain the Coronavirus pandemic.

So far, India has more than 2,000 Coronavirus cases, including 56 deaths.

In the first video conference with all Chief Ministers amidst the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday asked the head of the states to be alert and stressed on the formulation of a common exit strategy to ensure staggered re-emergence of population once the nationwide lockdown concludes.

“Our goal is to ensure minimum loss of life:,” said Modi during video interaction with the chief ministers on tackling COVID-19.

He said it “can’t be business as usual” after the lockdown and certain safeguards would have to be taken.

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